The University of Utah Health and the University of California San Diego recently announced separate plans to begin new phases of research on medical marijuana. In Utah, the study will focus on the individual effects of cannabinoids on brain processes, while UC San Diego researchers will probe possible treatments for autism with marijuana. Both projects have been made possible by grants from the Ray and Tye Noorda Foundation in partnership with the Wholistic Research and Education Foundation.
The University of Utah Health received $740,000 to support innovative brain-imaging research, which will analyze how various cannabinoids affect cognition, stress, and pain. The study will involve 40 healthy young adults and seek to understand the causal mechanisms through which cannabinoids interact with receptors in the brain.
“Deciphering the personalized effects of CBD [cannabidiol] and THC [tetrahydrocannabinol] will have a profound impact on how various cannabinoids may best be used for medical treatments,” said Jon-Kar Zubieta, MD, PhD, chair of the University of Utah School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry and the study’s co-principal investigator.
With the support of a $4.7 million gift — the largest amount ever donated for medical marijuana research in the United States — the University of California San Diego will study the effects of CBD on autism. This research, the first of its kind, will investigate how CBD might correct neurochemical imbalances in individuals with autism, a condition that impacts an estimated 1 in 68 children born today.
“There are unconfirmed reports that cannabidiol could be helpful, but there are no careful studies to document either its benefits or its safety,” commented Igor Grant, MD, professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “This gift will enable our researchers to develop and implement a translational program of research that pairs a clinical trial with detailed neurobehavioral observation, as well as basic science studies to determine if cannabidiol holds therapeutic promise, and if so, via what mechanisms.”
Last week, the Iowa Legislature approved HF 524, extending and expanding the state's existing cannabidiol program. Now, all the bill needs is a signature from the governor to become law.
Although the Senate approved a full medical marijuana bill that allowed as much THC as patients might need, the House has lagged behind. HF 524 includes a 3% cap on THC. We are disappointed at the limits of the final bill, but it is still an important step forward.
If passed, patients suffering from illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or terminal illness would be able to enroll in a program with their doctor's authorization. Patients must be permanent residents of Iowa and would apply for their ID cards through the Department of Transportation. Unlike Iowa’s existing CBD program, manufacturers would be licensed to produce the oil, and dispensaries would be established where patients could make actual purchases, thus allowing in-state access to this life-changing medication.
If you are an Iowa resident, please ask Gov. Terry Branstad to sign the measure into law without delay.
Last week, the South Dakota State Senate passed Senate Bill 95, which would remove cannabidiol, or CBD oil, from the definition of marijuana and make it a Schedule IV controlled substance under state law. However, the bill included a requirement that CBD oil be approved by the Food and Drug Administration, which would indefinitely curtail access to CBD oil in South Dakota.
On March 2, the House Health and Human Services Committee approved SB 95 by a vote of 7-3 and added an amendment eliminating prior FDA approval with the goal of increasing access for patients. MPP is closely monitoring SB 95 for potential problems, since pharmaceutical companies and their lobbyists are pushing the South Dakota Legislature to keep the FDA approval requirement in the bill.
Additionally, Senate Bill 129 was introduced with a total of 15 sponsors. This legislation would revise the penalty for ingestion of marijuana, which would undo South Dakota's uniquely severe law of criminalizing internal possession. However, the sponsors have unambiguously stated this is not a first step toward legalizing marijuana. Nonetheless, if enacted, this bill demonstrates a step toward reasonable regulatory laws relating to possession.
The Virginia General Assembly is in full swing, and lawmakers have already considered several marijuana policy reform bills. Sen. Adam Ebbin’s SB 1091 — which would end the automatic six-month driver’s license suspension for first offense possession of marijuana — was approved by the Senate on Friday.
Last year, the General Assembly approved a bill to allow in-state production of cannabidiol oil for patients with intractable epilepsy. However, to become law, that bill — Sen. Dave Marsden’s SB 1027 — needs to pass again this year. It passed the Senate on Jan. 26.
Companion legislation for both bills are now being considered in the House.
Unfortunately, the committee defeated two other bills, which would have decriminalized possession of marijuana — replacing possible jail time with a civil penalty.
On Thursday, the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) announced in a press release that they had received approval to study the effects of marijuana on treating PTSD in veterans.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has formally approved the first-ever randomized controlled trial of whole plant medical marijuana (cannabis) as a treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in U.S. veterans. The DEA’s approval marks the first time a clinical trial intended to develop smoked botanical marijuana into a legal prescription drug has received full approval from U.S. regulatory agencies, including the DEA and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study will test the safety and efficacy of botanical marijuana in 76 U.S. military veterans with treatment-resistant PTSD. The study is funded by a $2.156 million grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to the California-based non-profit Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), which is sponsoring the research.
The trial will gather safety and efficacy data on four potencies of smoked marijuana with varying ratios of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). By exploring the effectiveness of a variety of marijuana strains, the study seeks to generate naturalistic data comparable to how many veterans in medical marijuana states currently use marijuana. Results will provide vital information on marijuana dosing, composition, side effects, and areas of benefit to clinicians and legislators considering marijuana as a treatment for PTSD.
Congratulations and thanks go to Dr. Sue Sisley, who has long been the foremost champion of studying the effects of marijuana on PTSD, and the rest of the staff at MAPS for working so diligently in this area.
If passed, the "Charlotte's Web Medical Hemp Act of 2014" would allow states to permit patients suffering from epilepsy and related conditions to use an oil that is extremely low in THC but high in cannabidiol, or CBD. Under current federal law, any product made from marijuana is illegal.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed a limited medical marijuana bill into law yesterday. HB 2238 allows some patients with intractable epilepsy access to products containing marijuana extracts. Those extracts must be limited primarily to a non-psychoactive ingredient in the cannabis plant called cannabidiol, or CBD.
Many believe high-CBD marijuana extracts are effective in helping alleviate severe seizure conditions — reducing both the frequency and intensity of seizures. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of patients who can benefit from medical marijuana have this condition, so the vast majority of seriously ill patients in Missouri will be left out of the state program. MPP has a short analysis of the law available here.
Several other states have passed laws that are similarly limited. For the most part, laws passed in other states are not workable due to limitations imposed under federal law. By contrast, Missouri’s carefully crafted law is unique in that it may actually lead to a functioning program. This will be great news for those few seriously ill seizure patients who will be able to participate.
Tragically, Lydia Schaeffer (aged 7) passed away on Mother’s Day from a rare genetic disorder called Kleefstra syndrome, which causes terrible seizures and other complications. Her plight inspired lawmakers in Wisconsin to legalize a marijuana extract to treat her condition, despite their opposition to a broader medical marijuana reform.
Sally Schaeffer, Lydia’s mother, lobbied the state legislature to legalize the cannabidiol (CBD) extract from the marijuana stain known as Charlotte’s Web for use on children with seizure disorders. Even though lawmakers moved to pass the limited CBD-only bill in record time, determining the implications of the law stalled it from going into effect. Additionally, CBD-only bills leave behind 98% of the patients who can benefit from medical marijuana, so Wisconsin still has a long way to go before patients have legal access to this much-needed medicine.
In Lydia's honor, Sally plans to continue spreading the word on CBD oil. She said she was contacted by Sen. Robert Wirch's office this week and told they would try to have the bill she championed called Lydia's Law. Wirch’s sympathy toward the Schaeffer family is welcomed, but his and other politicians’ compassion for the vast majority of other patients in need is currently lacking.
On Thursday, the Florida House voted 111-7 in support of a bill that will exempt a limited group of very sick people from criminal laws for using marijuana that is low in THC and high in CBD if certain requirements are met. Gov. Rick Scott has stated that he’ll sign the bill if the Senate agrees to the House version today. Please email your lawmakers today and thank them for recognizing marijuana’s medical benefits.
The bill allows patients with cancer and conditions that result in chronic seizures or severe muscle spasms to use marijuana that contains 0.8% THC or lower and 10% CBD or higher. Patients can administer the medicine via pills, oils, or vaporization. Smoking is prohibited. The bill also requires the state to register five dispensing businesses, spread out across the state, to grow and dispense the medical marijuana. Unfortunately, the bill places heavy burdens on physicians who wish to recommend marijuana to their patients, arguably forcing them to violate federal laws in order to do so.
Florida took a small step forward this year, but the law is so incomplete that MPP will not be counting it as a “medical marijuana state.” Voters will have an opportunity to enact a comprehensive, workable medical marijuana law by voting "yes" on Amendment Two this November.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has signed into law a bill, A.B. 726, which exempts a very limited class of individuals from criminal penalties for the use and possession of cannabidiol (a component of marijuana) “in a form without a psychoactive effect.” While this is an improvement to current law, it leaves the vast majority of medical marijuana patients without legal protections for using and possessing the medicine their doctors think is best for them.
The law allows individuals with seizure disorders to possess non-psychoactive cannabidiol if they have their physician’s written approval. However, it doesn’t give patients a realistic way to obtain their medicine in Wisconsin.
Individuals with the written documentation would have to travel to one of the few medical marijuana states that allow non-residents to obtain cannabis from their dispensaries. They would then have to bring cannabidiol back to Wisconsin, possibly crossing through other states where it is illegal. With all these limitations, this law may be unworkable even for the limited population it’s meant to help. For more information, please see our summary of the law.
Wisconsin took a small step forward this year, but the law is so incomplete that MPP will not be counting it as a “medical marijuana state.”